Food market
24 April 2024

Moving towards a clearer understanding of the thematic scope of the Food Partnership

The Ex-Ante Assessment (EAA) on the Food Thematic Area provided a solid background to position and orient the new Urban Agenda for the EU Partnership on Food, by identifying existing gaps, key challenges, and areas of intervention. The Food Thematic Partnership started its work with the analysis of the priority themes identified in the EAA, by selecting the most relevant and urgent topics representing key challenges addressed by cities in the process of local food systems transformation.

As a result of this first phase of brainstorming and analysis members of the Partnership reached consensus on shared values and principles guiding their approach, as well as on priority themes, a critical step in focusing the efforts of the partnership and ensuring alignment among stakeholders.
The adoption of a multi-level governance, multi-sector, and multi-stakeholder approach will serve as the cornerstone of the Partnership's overall strategy, enabling to find a holistic and inclusive response to the multifaceted challenges of the food system. 

Common challenges and topics of interest

The first effort of the Food Thematic Partnership was dedicated to identifying, among the wide range of critical themes that need to be addressed in the food system transformation, those that are more pressing and align with the partnership's objectives and mission. 

Discussion about priority topics

Better Knowledge

Regarding the Better Knowledge pillar, consensus was reached on certain areas of focus such as the knowledge exchange, starting, for example, with the creation of a match-making system between best practices and cities looking for help and inspiration to improve their local food systems, and the capacity building area, focusing on technical assistance, training, and support to local/regional authorities, for example, on how to ensure longer term impact to pilot projects and on public farmland management. Also, leveraging food system data and tools is relevant, such as the creation of guidelines for monitoring and evaluation systems based on available city-level data as well as the analysis of citizen’s food purchasing behaviour.

Discussion about priority topics

Better Regulation

As to the Better Regulation Pillar, a key point is advocating for the implementation of a Food Policy at the EU level and, at the same time, mapping policy incoherences at national and regional scale to assess the impact of existing policies and trigger new initiatives. Another crucial area for the partners is the public procurement of food, especially the definition of minimum mandatory criteria. Also, the relation with the private sector is strategic for advancing initiatives aimed at protecting local products, promoting circular food systems, and ensuring fair prices in line with the EU Green Deal.

Discussion about priority topics

Better Funding

Better Funding objective is crucial and strictly interlinked with the need to create a EU Food Policy; dedicated funding instruments are essential to support pilot projects at the local/regional level and the transfer of innovation. Members of the partnership identified as a starting point the mapping of different funds available, due to a lack of a comprehensive repertory of the EU initiatives and funding programmes for the food system.

Narrow down the thematic scope of the Partnership

The second effort of the partners was dedicated to narrow down the thematic scope of the partnership, identifying overarching themes that encompass the most relevant and urgent topics emerged in the initial brainstorming discussions.  As a result, the Partnership identified four main umbrella themes that provide a structured framework for organizing the partnership's activities and initiatives:

1.    Innovative funding

2.    City-region framework

3.    Capacity building

4.    EU and national regulation


Four umbrella themes to orient the Partnership’s activities

Innovative Funding addresses the lack of a clear integrated funding of food systems and focuses on the following sub-themes: - Mapping existing funds and advocate the EU Commission for new funds to support innovation and transfer of innovation - Ensuring financial support for public projects - Guidelines to support start-ups and transfer of innovation - Guidelines for the investment framework

City-region framework recognizes the interconnected nature of food systems, the role of cities as key actors, and the need for collaboration and partnership across levels and sectors. It includes different subthemes that are crucial for promoting sustainability, resilience, and equity in urban food systems: - Global sustainable approach to food public procurement - Minimum mandatory criteria (i.e. support small-scale farms, healthy diets, organic products, fair-trade, climate actions, working conditions, animal welfare, etc.). - Creation of physical spaces at regional level for innovative urban agriculture - Ensure sustainable food for everyone - Mechanism to ensure longer-term impact of pilot projects - Guidelines for monitoring &evaluation systems based on available city-level data

Capacity Building is aimed at strengthening the skills, knowledge, and capabilities of stakeholders involved in food systems, providing support for the implementation of pilot projects in regions and cities. It encompasses the following subthemes: - Free training programmes and access to online resources/mentorship - Education: living labs for schools - Upscaling/Transfer of knowledge and innovation - Match-making system between best practices and cities looking for help to improve their food systems. - Stakeholder empowerment - Drivers for behavioural change - Building cross-sectoral partnership

The EU/national regulation theme focuses on the need for a systemic approach and overarching legislation ensuring coherence and synergies at all levels. Main sub-themes are: - Implementation of a EU Food Policy - Addressing multi-level policy incoherences in each area of the food system, thus, to identify obstacles and drivers for promoting sustainable food production, distribution, and consumption - Identification of national strategies - Relation with the private sector (short supply chain, fair price, and sustainable food)

Next steps

Each of these umbrella themes represents a distinct area of focus for the working groups within the Food Thematic Partnership, allowing them to dive deep into specific issues and develop targeted solutions. By aligning their efforts around these themes, partners can maximize impact and address critical knowledge gaps more efficiently towards the process of preparation and implementation of the Partnership’s Action Plan.